President Jimmy Carter Challenges Brenau Women to Continue the Struggle for Gender Equality Throughout the World
Brenau University Women’s College first-year students enjoyed the “chance of a lifetime” Friday when they had the opportunity to go one-on-one with President Jimmy Carter at a special program for them at the Carter Center in Atlanta.
The students’ first assignment as college freshmen is to read and write a report about Carter’s latest book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. And if that is not pressure enough, Carter told Brenau President Ed Schrader and the student group that he wanted to read some of the students’ work when it was finished.
Carter, the 39th president of the United States, told the group that he agreed to meet with them because two very close friends, both Brenau alumnae, “told me I had to do it.” The two are Nancy Moore of St. Simons Island, Georgia, and Nan Powell of Williamsburg, Virginia. Both worked in Carter’s campaigns for Georgia governor and the presidency and the husbands of both were among the president’s closest advisers in key offices in the White House.
“But I would have done it anyway,” said Carter, adding that he planned to spend the rest of his life fighting for full equality for women around the globe, and he felt it was important to share his views with the group of Women’s College students whom he urged to help him carry out the fight.
One of the students asked whether the United States had improved its record in doing right by its female citizens since he began his presidency in 1977.
“We have gone down hill,” Carter said with his characteristic bluntness. And he cited a litany of examples of why he felt that way ranging from how rape and sexual assault victims are treated in the branches of the U.S. military, to absence of women in corner offices of major corporations and institutions to equal pay issues to the abysmal record of female office holders in state, local and national governments in the country.
There was also a lighter moment. Schrader brought a print of an Andy Warhol portrait of the president, twice signed by the artist, that is part of Brenau’s permanent art collection, and asked Carter to autograph it. The former U.S. president graciously complied, signing his name across the glass at the top of the portrait bigger than the famous signature of John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence.
After President Carter was elected, Warhol produced the black and white screenprint “Jimmy Carter III” as part of the “Inaugural Impressions” portfolio. This featured works by Warhol and other artists commemorating the inauguration. Brenau’s “Jimmy Carter III” is an extra print and un-editioned, donated to the university in 2013 by the Andy Warhol Foundation.
Brenau officials estimate that, once registration is complete, more than 200 new first-year students will join the Class of 2018 in the institution’s 136th year. Another 108 students have transferred to Brenau from other institutions.
The students all are subject to a required for-credit “first-year seminar” course and, in that, they all have a single book as a “common reader.” Their assignment is to start building their critical thinking skills with a detailed analysis of the book.
Schrader said he could think of no better work for this group to examine than Carter’s book. And Carter returned the compliment saying that “he was truly honored” that the group selected his book as its common reader.
Carter also admired the group’s bright green tee shirts. He pointed out that they were the same color adopted for his 1976 presidential campaign – against conventional wisdom of political experts who insist that campaign materials should always use either red, white or blue, or a combination thereof. When the group left, Carter had a new tee shirt with the legend “Class of 2018: Building the Ideal World.” That is a reference to “The Brenau Ideal,” a sort of mantra for Brenau students, which in part urges them “To be modestly conscious of the limitations of human knowledge and serenely confident of the limitless reaches of human endeavor.”
That, said Schrader, fits Carter to a tee.